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Compare and Contrast: Agile vs Scrum Project Management
January 30, 2020

Compare and Contrast: Agile vs Scrum Project Management

Projects can range from minimal processes to monumental, business-changing tasks. When you face a large-scale project, it’s always good to have a plan in your pocket. For businesses large and small, agile project management is a stellar way to hit the ground running.

But what is agile project management? How does a business properly incorporate agile into their workplace? In this guide, we discuss agile benefits and dive deeper into Scrum, the most popular methodology.

What is Agile Project Management?

Agile project management is an incredible force of progress for your small business’ projects. It’s a flexible, modern approach to managing projects within your organization. Agile provides a process to break larger projects into manageable individual tasks. These tasks are then tackled in “sprints,” which are short, specific iterations of time.

Utilizing agile project management enables teams and organizations to adapt to changes quickly. As a result, work is delivered quickly and correctly.

Newcomers to agile project management may first see a confusing, complicated system of operations. However, believe it or not, you’re likely already completing a good number of tasks that agile involves. With just a few minor changes, your small business will be on its way to speedier cycles of development, and smaller and more frequent deliverables.

In the past, this project management structure was reserved for hardcore software development companies. Now, businesses of all sizes are using various forms of Agile in their industries. From construction to education, food service to hospitality, Agile is everywhere.

While it’s easy to attempt to form cookie-cutter agile to your business needs, each team and business is unique. Having a clear understanding of the basics can assist significantly in developing a robust process.

Core Values of Agile

There are four core values in agile project management. These values are the most dominant piece of what is called the “Agile Manifesto.” Think of this as the Constitution for project management.

These four core values should serve as gospel for any team looking to adopt any agile method:

  • Interactions and individuals over tools and processes: It doesn’t matter how sophisticated technology becomes. The human element should always reign supreme. People play crucial roles in all project management. Having too heavy a reliance on tools and processes leads to a lack of adaptability to circumstances when they change.
  • Working products over thorough documentation: Documentation is necessary, yes. We’ve stressed the essential nature of standard operating procedures in many cases. However, a working product should take priority over documentation.

Remember, your customers are what make you money. The value comes in providing them what they need.

  • Collaboration with customers over negotiating contracts: Your customers are the most powerful asset your small business has. Whether your customers are internal or external, involving them through the process helps to ensure the resulting product or service effectively meets their needs.
  • Responses to change over following plans: This core value seems counterintuitive compared to standard project management practices. In most businesses, change can be seen as an expense that should always be avoided. However, agile project management allows for constant change through the project lifecycle. This is crucial to develop an always-improving product or service.

Standard Implementation Methods of Agile

There are many different ways to implement agile project management in your business or project team. Which method is the best for your company is dependent on your unique needs, goals, and strategies. Four of the most common frameworks are Scrum, Kanban, Extreme Programming (or XP), and Crystal Clear. Below is a quick overview of each:

Scrum

Scrum is by far the most utilized of the extensive frameworks involved with Agile project management methodologies. Scrum has a few unique characteristics compared to alternative options. These characteristics include stages of development cycles called Sprints and maximizing work time for products or services.

The Scrum process is wildly popular in development projects in the software and IT industries. However, variations of Scrum can be used successfully in many other business-related processes.

One of the differentiating factors for Scrum is the daily standup, a small, 15-minute meeting that takes place each day. This meeting is meant to synchronize team actions and curate a plan to tackle the workday.

Kanban

“Kanban” is of Japanese origin. The meaning of the word is related to a project management time concept called “just in time.” When adequately acted upon, Kanban projects live on a table or board, called a Kanban board.

This board is divided into even columns, which represent the flow of production. As development continues, the information on the board morphs. When new tasks are created, a new card is added to the board.

This Agile project management methodology requires both transparency and communication. It’s crucial in Kanban that each team member knows where everyone else is. They also need to be able to see the project and task status at all times.

(XP) Extreme Programming

Extreme Programming is a standard framework for Agile development. Its main advantage is that it works in many different areas. This methodology emphasizes values, including simplicity, communication, respect, courage, and feedback. It also prioritizes the satisfaction of the customer over all else.

The XP methodology provides the team members with trust in their customers, modifying project plans based on feedback. This is important in XP, even when the requests come at later cycle stages.

Teamwork is the primary aim of Extreme Programming. When a problem arises, the entire team solves it. All team members are pieces of the puzzle. This Agile methodology creates efficient and productive environments.

Crystal Clear

Crystal Clear is an agile framework that focuses on people and their interaction, not tools and processes. If you’ve heard that before, good work. Crystal is a branch of one of the most critical core values of the Agile Manifesto.

Crystal Clear’s framework is comprised of two central beliefs:

  • Teams can find their own solutions to challenges and improvements to workflows.
  • Each project is unique and ever-changing. This is why a specific project team is most ideally suited to determine how they will tackle the tasks.

What is Scrum’s Role in Agile?

The Scrum process is relatively rigid. But what does Scrum stand for? Actionable steps in the Scrum workflow follow similar phases, regardless of branch-outs of the overall process. Below is a very high-level explanation of how a Scrum project workflow begins, expands, and comes to a close.

To begin a Scrum project, the product owner will create and prioritize a list of items. These wish-list tasks are referred to as the product backlog.

Through the course of a sprint planning meetings, the scrum team will decide which items from the product backlog are developed into a Sprint. Each day of the sprint, the team will meet and run through a daily scrum standup meeting.

Throughout the spring, the scrum master will work to remove blocks and impediments hindering the team. This allows the Scrum team to continue their work. As a sprint draws to a close, the scrum team will showcase developed updates and features to the team and stakeholders. These stakeholders have a vested interest in the release of a product or service for a business.

As a sprint closes out, sprint review and retrospective meetings are conducted. Below, we outline the roles of each member of the scrum process. We’ll also look at the different events that occur through a sprint.

The Roles in Scrum

In the Scrum agile project management practice, there are three primary roles. These three roles weigh heavily in the progression of a product or service from ideation to completion. The product owner, scrum master, and Scrum team work together to ensure success in their goal.

Product Owner

The Scrum product owner has an important responsibility. Their goal is to maximize the return on investment, or ROI, of a business or team. This is done through:

  • Identification of product or services
  • Prioritizing steps to reach the end goal
  • Deciding what needs to be most important for each sprint
  • Continuous reprioritization and refinement of tasks

The Scrum product owner has a strong responsibility to the business. They’re responsible for a product or service’s profit or loss. In agile project management, the product owner essentially acts as a mouthpiece for the customer. As such, it’s imperative that they accurately represent the customer’s best interests.

Scrum Master

The role of the Scrum Master is one of the most crucial in the Scrum process. They assist the product group in applying and learning Scrum to gain value for the small business. Their role is to do everything possible to help the product owner, Scrum team, and business maintain forward traction.

A Scrum Master isn’t the manager of the team. They also aren’t a “team lead,” project manager, or even a representative of the organization. Instead, the Scrum Master serves as the behest of the team. Their goal is to remove roadblocks, keep them on track, and assist in adopting Agile practices.

Scrum Team

The Scrum team is a group of people who work together to reach a common goal. Their purpose is to create and deliver requested increments of a product or service. They’re  cross-functional individuals with the skills necessary to achieve the goals of each sprint.

Scrum teams can include any facet or skillset mix. The needs of a Scrum team is dependent on the end goal of a project. It may be software developers, programmers, architects, analysts, manual laborers, QA team members, and more.

This team creates the product indicated by the product owner and supported by the Scrum master.

The Scrum Workflow

The goal of both Agile and Scrum is to create shorter cycles of development. Another goal is to build more frequent deliverables than the old-school waterfall style of project management. Shorter time frames allow project teams to react to consistent changes in the needs of their customers. They can do this more effectively and on a more task-focused basis.

The workflow for Scrum consists of many pieces. However, five of the most important are the sprint planning meeting, product backlog, daily Scrum, backlog refinement process, and sprint reviews and retrospectives.

Sprint Planning

Before the start of each “sprint” (usually two to three weeks in length), stakeholders meet. They go through the process of planning what is to be accomplished by each team member in the sprint. In addition, they assess their task load and set goals to achieve their respective tasks.

It’s crucial to split the workload for a sprint evenly among team members based on skill, speed, and effectiveness. This way, the team can ensure they meet their goals and accomplish their tasks through the course of a sprint.

It’s also important to visually document workflows for transparency in the scrum team. This also serves to share understanding within the organization. It also helps the scrum master to identify and remove bottlenecks. This can occur through post-it notes on a whiteboard, digital tools such as Rally, or any other means of collaboration.

Product Backlog

The scrum product backlog is an ordered list of known things needed to complete a product or service. This backlog is a “single source” of requirements for any changes or updates that need to be made. The product backlog is the responsibility of the product owner. This includes content, tasks, order, and availability.

By design, product backlogs are never complete lists. The early development of a backlog lays out known and understood requirements. From here, the backlog evolves as to the environment in which the project morphs and expands.

This is an entirely dynamic process. It changes continuously, identifying what the product needs to be competitive, useful, and appropriate. As long as a product exists in the Scrum world, a product backlog will be required.

Daily Scrum

To assist the project team in accomplishing tasks, and to assess whether changes should be made, short daily meetings should be held. These meetings have a structured flow, in which you discuss current projects and immediate needs.

These meetings shouldn’t be long; fifteen minutes at most. They aren’t meant to be an extensive brainstorming session, or an opportunity to chat about general topics. In fact, many teams consider their daily Scrum a “standup.” In this, they literally stand up during the meeting, which helps to keep things brief.

Backlog Refinement

Making revisions to the product backlog is usually known as either backlog refinement or backlog grooming. This is a method that assists in keeping the backlog clean, orderly, and consistently updated.

The backlog refinement process is inbuilt into Scrum. It’s a collaborative discussion between members of the scrum team. Typically starting at the tail end of a sprint, it serves to confirm backlog readiness for future sprints.

The scrum master attends backlog refinement meetings. Their purpose is facilitating processes for the scrum team, stakeholders, and product owners. The entire team decides on the highest priority items to move from the backlog into upcoming sprints.

This team can raise questions, comments, and concerns through the refinement process and into sprint planning. As unresolved issues arise, this dynamic process allows for quick changes “on the fly.”

Sprint Review/Retrospective

Sprint review and sprint retrospective are two separate meetings.

The sprint review is no different than a UAT meeting, UAT being user acceptance testing. This is where project team members demo results of work performed in the sprint. This meeting requires the product owner, as well as any stakeholders necessary to provide feedback on the work.

Sprint retrospective meetings are similar to project “post-mortems.” These meetings are performed at the end of a sprint. Their purpose is reflecting on what went poorly and what went well in the previous sprint. The ultimate goal is to recognize these highs and lows to improve in the sprint that follows.

Agile Vs. Scrum: Scrum Or Something Else?

So, do you understand the differences between Scrum vs. agile? By now, it should be clear that Scrum is simply one of the methodologies to incorporate agile project management into your workforce. Scrum is the most recommended methodology for agile and works incredibly well when properly implemented.

Hopefully, this guide has cleared some questions up about the Scrum and agile process. Also, feel free to sign up for our newsletter for additional tips on how to grow your small business.

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Editorial Note: Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author's alone, and have not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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Fora Financial is a working capital provider to small business owners nationwide. In addition, the Fora Financial team provides educational information to the small business community through their blog, which covers topics such as business financing, marketing, technology, and much more. If you’d like to see a topic covered on the Fora Financial blog, or want to submit a guest post, please email us at [email protected].